Notebooks & Books On Writing

Apparently I’ve been missing out, not knowing about this book. It seems that many high school English classes use it, but mine definitely did not. The book is “Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within” by Natalie Goldberg.

I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m already loving it. There are so many prompts and ideas and I’m finding it all to be quite inspiring. I read a chapter or two and I have to stop because there’s something that I want to write down before I forget!

I’ve also decided to follow in Natalie Goldberg’s footsteps and start using just plain, single subject, spiral-bound notebooks for my writing practice. I’m a little bit obsessed with office supplies, notebooks included, so I find myself constantly buying new ones, different ones. I’ll buy a large 300 page notebook and then before I’ve even filled 5 pages, I buy a pretty composition book style notebook. And another, and then a fun journal that I liked because it opened flat. Before I know it, I have 6 or 7 empty notebooks lying around, only 25% filled in total! It’s like I’m spending more time worrying about the notebooks and which one to write in than I am actually writing. And how silly is that?!

I figure that if I take the guesswork out of it and give myself that “routine” of using regular single subject notebooks, it will enable me to be more productive.

Basically, I should know by now that I work best with a routine set in place. At the very least, organized chaos. 🙂

Characters Telling The Story (& a Short Excerpt)

I mentioned previously that I’m currently reading “Bird by Bird”, and the section I recently read was regarding letting your story kind of fall into place, rather than pre-planing the entire thing. The author was driving home the point that this is the most organic way to write a story, the way that will result in the most compelling writing and interesting characters.

Happily enough, that is exactly how my book unfolded. I began with the first sentence, not having ANY idea of what it meant or where it would go. But as soon as I started writing everything just fell into place. I could see my main character–her house, her family, and the street she lived on. I listened and she told me her story, bit by bit. 🙂 I legitimately didn’t know where it was going to end up until I was a solid 3/4 of the way through it.

When that happens, it feels like magic. I’ve written plenty of other stories and started other books that I gave up on after 10 pages. In those cases I was most likely trying to force the story, versus letting it just flow from my pen or keyboard. But this completed (save for some revisions I’m still working on!) book feels so special and personal to me, because I was able to get into that zone. I was able to listen to the characters and let them push the story along. I was able to get to the point where I write something and when re-reading think to myself, “No, she wouldn’t say it like that.” Or, “He wouldn’t react that way. It’s not his personality.”

It has been awhile since I put in an excerpt from said book, so I’ll put a short one in this post. This is the scene where the MC (Thana) meets Phoebe–her perky, happy coworker who ends up knowing far more than she lets on…


That day I had to work after school. Things were going well at the library. The peace and quiet was good for me. Nobody there knew that people were dropping around me like flies. Patrons came and went, smiling politely and occasionally making small talk. Nobody bothered me with questions or looked at me with dread. That day I came in to find a tiny blonde girl waiting at the punch-in clock, positively beaming at me.

“Hi! My name is Phoebe. Kristen hired me yesterday and told me to be here today to train! You must be Thana.”

“Uh, yeah. Kristen didn’t say anything to me about this…” Not that I was surprised. Kristen often left me with added responsibilities when she didn’t feel like handling her managerial position.

“She left a note by your desk, I think. That’s what she said she would do, anyway. My my, your eyes are certainly green, aren’t they? Quite striking and most interesting.” She smiled at me like she knew a secret.

“Oh, yeah, thank you.” I mumbled, feeling off-kilter from her whole demeanor. Her teeth still beamed at me perfectly. Her citrus yellow sun dress fit her torso like a glove, showing off her petite curvature; hugging her slender waist, falling effortlessly over her shapely hips to a flowing, girlish skirt. Her white, strappy shoes looked like they had a three-inch heel, and circled around her ankle daintily where the buckle shined nearly as much as she did.

Suddenly I felt quite frumpy in my slightly baggy, comfy jeans and plain grey crew-neck tee.

The note from Kristen was just where Phoebe said it would be. Thana—train the new girl. Thanks. –Kristen. Very helpful indeed.


An Unfortunate Incident Involving Handcuffs

I’m such a nerd sometimes. 🙂

I genuinely love learning something new about grammar/punctuation. When there is a particular concept that I’ve always just not quite understood the rules of, and then it suddenly clicks after reading up on it some more… that’s such a satisfying feeling!

My “Woe is I” book is one of my favorites. Very helpful and very straight-forward with the explanations. I’ve used it for those times when someone asks me a grammar question that I know the answer to, but I just can’t quite explain it myself.

I think I’ve talked about this before, but I feel that the education system fails us in this regard–I never fully learned the rules for grammar and punctuation in school. I simply learned what was correct via osmosis from reading so much! But this means I rarely know why something is correct, I just know that it is. Perhaps I just learn better via examples or from “doing.” Someone just telling me, “This is right. This is wrong,” over and over just doesn’t seem to do the trick!

I digress!

So I’ve been severely slacking with the daily writing for the October Writing Challenge. But last night I was reading from “Bird by Bird” (which I’m very much enjoying so far, thanks to my wonderfully sweet, thoughtful cousin/best friend who purchased it for me!) and I was suddenly inspired to write about a fairly hilarious memory that popped into my head. …..


Once upon a time, I locked a handcuff around a cat’s neck. My own cat, actually. This was not done when I was a small, silly child. No, I was 16 years old, a junior in high school. What, pray tell, would prompt me to do this? I can’t quite recall now, but I imagine boredom had a lot to do with it.

It is important to note that when I slid the handcuff around said cat’s neck, I was under the impression that the key to kitty’s freedom was nearby in my brother’s room.

For most of our childhood these handcuffs hung around our house. Where they came from, I have no idea. We played cops and robbers with them, or tried locking each other to furniture before running away with the key to torment one another, but either my dad or my brother always had the key. For years and years, we could easily unlock anyone from the handcuffs.

This particular evening, I was sitting in my room, probably watching a movie or something along those lines. Really, I can’t quite recall what I was doing, but it’s obvious I was bored. I certainly didn’t want to hurt Kobe (the featured, unfortunate critter), I imagine I was just curious about how he would react. So I closed the handcuff around his neck, quite loosely, and he didn’t really seem to mind his new neckwear. He was a bit confused, and I’m sure annoyed with my antics, but he mostly just sat there and kind of wiggled his little fuzzy, grey bobtail a bit. I went across the narrow hallway to my brother’s room to retrieve the key.

“Hey where are the handcuff keys?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean? Weren’t they on your dresser?”

“Awhile ago. I think I lost them.”

“Are you serious?! I put the handcuffs on Kobe!”

“What?!” He cracked up. “Why?!”

“I don’t know, I was just dinkin’ around! Crap! Maybe Dad has them.”

We spent the next 10-15 minutes searching for the keys in any spot we could think of. No luck. Mom and Dad weren’t home at the time, but we called Dad to see if he knew where the keys were. He did not.

I can’t quite recall the following chain of events, but I know that my cousin, Daniel, ended up driving out to our house to pick me and the entrapped cat back to his house, to see if my Uncle Jeff could pick the lock somehow. Sitting in his car, holding Kobe in my lap, petting him and holding the handcuffs so they didn’t weigh down his neck, I could barely believe the predicament I’d gotten myself into. Daniel couldn’t stop laughing at me.

Uncle Jeff wasn’t able to pick the lock, and much laughter ensued. He was friends with one of the police officers in town, so he suggested I call over there to see if he was home and if he could help. If you’ve ever had to explain to a complete stranger the idiotic thing you did which defies all logic, you will understand how completely mortified I was in that moment, calling a police officer to see if he was at home so he could try to get a pair of handcuffs off my cat.

He was home, so Daniel and I went to his home where he and his family were just lounging around, enjoying a nice evening together. I’m sure they never could have guessed how their evening would end up. I sat on his couch while he sequestered his dogs to another room, while Kobe meowed and fidgeted, clearly in a tizzy about all of the activity he was experiencing.

Unfortunately, the police officer didn’t have any luck either. No key he had would fit, and he wasn’t sure what to do. Back to Uncle Jeff we went. I was beginning to think we would just have to use some kind of tool to break the metal ring off and hoping that my dad had something that would work and that my cat wouldn’t completely freak out.

Finally, Uncle Jeff was able to pick the lock. I can’t recall what tool he used, but I know that Kobe was finally free. I also knew I would never live down the moment of pure idiocy.

Sometimes years go by without this memory popping into my consciousness. Then something will trigger it and I will bust out laughing to myself all over again thinking, “I freaking handcuffed my cat.”

Lesson learned: do not play with handcuffs unless the key is in viewing range.

Workshopaholic

I’m searching for writing workshops I can attend (that don’t cost an arm & a leg) that are local, and I haven’t been having any luck!

For some reason I’m really craving a writing workshop. Maybe I’m feeling nostalgic for my college classes, or the summer workshops I would attend in middle and high school. School, but only involving writing. I could do that all day!

However, earlier last week I came across a few helpful websites!

http://writing.shawguides.com/index.cfm?action=search&fSearch=arizona&fSiteID=6&fSearchPointer=1&subaction=doSearch

http://www.azauthors.com/event_calendar.html

I’m pretty interested in a few of them–hoping I’ll be able to attend! I don’t mind conferences, but I’d really like a genuine workshop more than anything. Something that feels like I’m back in the classroom.

In other news, I have been severely slacking in the October Writing Challenge…! I’ll forget for a couple days then catch up a little, then forget again. I just feel like I need a “boost” with my writing lately. Not feeling motivated. Last night I randomly got inspired/motivated to work on my book some more, so that was good. I’ve decided to change quite a few things. There are more elements of mythology I want to add, after reading up on it more. It’s funny how these mythological elements keep popping up, matching what I already have in the story. I love it!

October Writing Challenge

My friend Mary is doing an October Writing Challenge and I have decided to join in! To at least attempt it; hence the “challenge” aspect. 🙂

Every day of the month there is a word prompt, and you just write whatever comes to mind. No word limits/goals.

I try to use my Brainsparker app as much as possible to give me writing prompts, but I admit that I slack off and will sometimes go two weeks without sitting down to write something new. Yikes! I think it will be nice to have someone else to more or less hold me accountable–that added pressure of someone else knowing what goal you’re working toward and not wanting to be a complete failure. 🙂

Perhaps I will post some excerpts here, if they’re up to snuff.

I’ve never done NaNoWriMo which is coming up… the one year I started to attempt it, I started stressing myself out over it. Sometimes I think I’m allergic to stress because I essentially cringe away from it and avoid it at all costs. So, that was the end of NaNoWriMo for me. Also, I was attempting to finish my book, and I found it too distracting and wasn’t spending any time working on my already established book. Maybe I could try it this year, though. I do need to get the second book going… hmm… !

Do writing challenges work for you?!

When You Need A Good Push

Fact: It is nearly impossible for me to resist a good writing prompt journal.

A few days ago I walked through a Barnes & Noble and on one of the end caps of an aisle I saw discounted journals, one of which being a writing prompt book. For only $6! I had to make the purchase, of course.

I really like this one. First of all, I hate when a journal/notebook won’t open fully, so you have to force the pages down flat with your hand. This one opens flat, which is lovely.

It has some pretty great prompts, too. So far anyway. I’ve only done about 4. But I’m enjoying it!

It’s simply called “300 Writing Prompts.” I don’t even know who the publisher is. It just has a blue cover. No publisher information anywhere on the outside or inside.

Anyway–sometimes you just need that little bit of inspiration, and it’s awesome to find a helpful tool. 🙂

Write In Order to Heal

It amazes me that more people don’t utilize writing as a therapeutic tool. There are few things in life more cathartic than writing down your struggles, stresses, painful experiences, and emotional turmoil. So many of the issues I’ve faced have been worked out on the page.

Studies have shown that there are obvious benefits to it, as a matter of fact. I am in complete agreement. It’s the same concept as talking out a problem–either with a friend or in actual therapy. Simply telling your story can help release some of the pain and hurt from a situation. I definitely attribute a lot of my emotional strength to my love for writing. I’ve been journaling since about second grade and while I have never tried writing poetry to be published (nor am I sure I ever would), I use poetry quite often to tell a story about something that I’ve gone through, or some emotion I’ve felt.

For me telling my stories (even just to myself in my own journals) essentially gets them off my chest. If I’m stressing about something writing it down makes it possible for me to move on from it; leave it behind me rather than hold it inside and let it fester.

This is why it has become a dream of mine to start some sort of writing program for high school kids. Life goals!